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Eastern Europe

These former Communist countries offer lots of interesting sights, and are often cheaper than their western counterparts.

Croatia

If Russia and Italy had a love child, it would be Croatia:  it has a strong Slavic history, but its Catholic religion, food, and culture are highly influenced by nearby Italy, as Venice once ruled most of the Croatian Dalmitian Coast.
  • Zagreb is an underrated capital with cool history and fun nightlife.
  • Plitvice National Park features beautiful waterfalls cascading over limestone cliffs.
  • Dubrovnik is probably the best destination in Croatia, with a mix of fun in the sun and history, with great food and water sports.

Slovenia

In brief

Slovenia is a small country in Central Europe. It lies on the south-eastern side of the Alps, where the Mediterranean and south-east Europe meet. Few places in the world can pride themselves on such a variety of landscape as Slovenia with its area of only 20,273 km2 (56,5 % is forest) at the junction of some of Europe's major geographical divides.
From the north and north-west the high Alps (the Karavanke, Julian Alps, Kamnik-Savinja Alps) extend into Slovenia, including the highest summit, Triglav (2,864 m), the world-famous Planica, the valley of the ski jumps, and two of nature's finest gems - Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj.
Eastwards the Alps gradually settle into the vineyard hills on fringes of the Pannonian basin; the tectonic faults of the area gave birth to most of Slovenia's spas.
Towards the south the Alps descend into the karstic and forested Dinaric Alps, which stretch out along the Adriatic coast and deep into the heartland of the Balkan peninsula. The Slovene section of the Dinaric range is the centre of the country's most-frequented tourist caves - the Postojna Cave and the Škocjan Caves, with Lipica, the home of the Slovene breed of white horses - the Lippizaner.
A small, but precious pocket of Slovenia lies on the Adriatic Sea; here, the sub-Mediterranean hills of Slovene Istria are wedged between the coast and the high edge of the Kras (Karst), and the coast features strikingly Mediterranean architecture in Koper (Capodistria), Izola (Isola), and Piran (Pirano), as well as in the modern tourist centre Portorož (Portorose).
All the principal traffic connections between individual provinces meet in the centrally located capital of Ljubljana.

How to get to Slovenia

By Car:    it is almost 1000 km from Naples. Take the motorway, pass the Roma, Florence, Venice, Trieste and take the exit to Slovenia. Tool costs 63 euro one way. 1,5 km after                    tool station, you will found the last Eni gas station. Fills the tank! Don't forget to buy a Vignette for Slovenian motorway. You can get it at the same gas station, or you can                 buy it at the IT-SLO border. Don't enter without it. You can be easily fined from 300 to 800 euro.

By Plane:
- to the South part:
  • from Naples Airport take flight
    • to Venice Airport (EasyJet, around 40 euro) then take Rent a Car or GoOpti (low-cost transfer)
    • to Trieste Airport (AlItalia, around 90 euro)  then take Rent a Car or GoOpti (low-cost transfer)
- to the North part:
  • from Naples Airport take flight
    • to Budapest Airport (Wizzair, around 60 euro) then take Rent a Car or GoOpti (low-cost transfer)
    By Bus:    There is Bus running between Wiena (AUT) - Maribor (SLO) - Ljubljana (SLO) - Trieste (IT) and vice versa from 30. March 2015  

    What to see (most usual places)

    • Ljubljana: the capitol of Slovenia, can easily be described as green and picturesque. Its old city centre, with castle on the top, is full of outstanding architecture, a medley of styles from different periods in history bound together into one of the 20th century's most amazing total works of art by the world famous architect and urban planner Jože Plečnik.
    • Lake Bled:  With immense natural beauty, Bled, together with its surroundings, ranks among the most beautiful alpine resort, renowned for its mild, healing climate and thermal lake water. The beauty of the mountains reflected on the lake, the sun, the serenity and the fresh air arouse pleasant feelings in visitors throughout the year, guaranteeing an ideal base or a relaxing break or an active holiday.
    • Lake Bohinj: Peaceful lakes and booming waterfalls, deep gorges and silent pools, timid animals and luxurious alpine flowers, impressive creations of nature and majestic natural phenomen, surrounded by high Alps.

    Czech Republic

    Prague

    Prague is one of the few European cities to remain nearly unchanged since the 18th century, thanks to its surviving World War II and its lack of development under communism.  While parts of the Old Town are now mobbed by tourists, it still has a beautiful charm. If you are looking for a great place to stay, you can rent a flat for cheaper than a hotel room and in a great part of the old city, prague-flat.net, or (if you are DOD on leave) staying at an embassy aprartment.  
    • Chococafe - Lilova 4, near Bethlehem Square.  Super-chocolatey drinks, so thick you have to drink them with a spoon!  Also pastries, bruschette, and salads.
    • La Bodeguta del Medio - Kaprova 5, near Old Town Square.  Good Cuban restaurant.
    • Dahab - Dlouha 33, north of Old Town Square.  Cool Middle Eastern restaurant with hookahs.
    • Klub Architektu - Bethelehem Square 5a.  Fun international cuisine and Czech favorites in the cellar of the Architectural School, at great prices.
    • Arzenal - Valetinská 11, near Old Town Square, (+420) 224 814 099, 11-11 every day.  Hip Thai restaurant/design studio.  For other Thai restaurants in Prague, see this Expats in Prague review.

    Slovakia

    Hungary

    Budapest

    Once the second capital of the vast Austria-Hungarian Empire, Budapest remains the unofficial capital of Central/Eastern Europe, with a unique Magyar (Hungarian) twist.
    • Buda: Castle district and St. Matthew Church
    • Pest: Beautiful sights including the Parliament (modeled on and perhaps more striking than the UK Parliament at Westminster)
    • Hungarian Baths: Gellert Hotel has beautiful baths, and the Szchenyi Baths in the City Park are a lot of fun.
    • Great Food: Hungarian food is known for its paprika seasoning
      • Gerbaud's Cafe - a classy throwback to 19th Century elegance, this Vörösmarty Tér place is known for its confections...Chocoloholics shouldn't miss the "Valrhona" Sundae, a huge dish of chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake, and chocolate candy, all bathed in an rich apricot foam with apricot purée on top!
      • Menza -  Great drinks and goulash, recommend a reservation if you want a table outside, and you want a table outside.
      • Restaurant Reviews

    Poland

    Although now part of the EU, Poland is still relatively cheap compared to the rest of Europe, even Eastern Europe.
    • Krakow is a beautiful medieval city, often called "the next Prague."  Its charming old town, churches, Jewish quarter, and Wawel castle will charm you...and its hopping night life will enthrall you.  A worthwhile day trip is to Auschwitz/Berkenau, where you can bear witness to some of the most horrible crimes of the Holocaust.  Another fun, albeit tacky, day trip is to the Salt Mines of Wieliczka, where you can see amazing caverns tunneled out of salt, including a huge chapel with elaborate carvings.  Stay within walking distance of Market Square in Old Town to take advantage of the many food stands, live entertainment, etc, that the Square has to offer. Try some real Kielbasa, Pierogies, and Żubrówka (Polish vodka) with Apple Juice. Good apartment rentals: www.crystalsuites.info
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